With a handful of ferocious singles and a reputation for chest-rattling live shows, the London-based duo have already begun to rattle all the right cages as they proclaim themselves as writers of ‘angry songs for sad people’. Latest single ‘Spit.’, a feral riot of a track that manages to both scream at you while still seducing you into their darkness, is only the latest in a run of tracks that marks them as set for the big-time. If there is a fight to be fought, Wargasm are here for it.
Talking to the band in their Northern Ireland lockdown home, it is striking how easy and natural it seemed to be for Wargasm to come into being. For Sam Matlock, guitarist in Dead!, time was beginning to tick down towards his band’s demise in 2018. As one era ended, another begun however with the suggestion that the band get the London scene cult photographer Girl In The Pit along to shoot some of their shows.
“We were on our way out by then,” he admits, but thankfully the two stayed in touch post-Dead!
“I was working in Tokyo for a bit, and we kept chatting throughout that and through the decay of his old band,” she carries on.
“I was just getting sad, drunk, throwing myself into different projects,” he finishes with a laugh. “Finally I just messaged Milkie saying, ‘for the love of God, I hope you can play an instrument!’”
To say he needn’t have worried is a major understatement. As well as being a photographer and professional model, Milkie was a skilled bass guitarist and had been doing session work for the likes of Barns Courtney.
“I have my roots in music as much as any other creative industry,” she explains today. “It’s weird how it’s all connected. You go to gigs and meet people, same at photoshoots, who are also in music. The creatives scene in London is just so tightly connected.”
With a mutual love of noughties nu-metal titans like Limp Bizkit, the two soon found plenty in common as well as a plan for the future. “We don’t think that old music like that is inherently better, we just think that people are being a bit lazy now,” Sam reasons. “There was an energy back then, a certain sense of ‘fuck it, let’s just have a bit of fun.”
Milkie picks up the thread, the two cutting in and out of each others sentences as they do throughout. “I respect and love a lot of the new bands that have come out in the last few years. But goddamn, some of it is just so fucking BORING! Everyone takes themselves so seriously in the rock scene, and I just want someone to not have a stick up their ass about it, you know?”
Taking their name from an L7 track, the Los Angeles band also brought another key influence to Wargasm. Both of them being huge fans of the entire Riot Grrrl movement of the early 90s, it was the natural influence for what they wanted the band to become, and to mean to others. “The name is the most important thing to us because it’s not only about being inspired by L7,” he answers when asked what they want the band to stand for. “The ‘War’ element is this kind of angry, visceral red energy. And then the ‘Gasm’ is like the euphoria that you get when you listen to a song and think, this is so fucking hard. I love it. Those two elements are the main thing about our band, those two energies are what we want to convey on every track.”
With a speedy realisation that they wanted their music to reflect both of their personalities, debut release ‘Post Modern Rhapsody’ was the first step. Describing it as a song that both “takes the piss and has a message”, it was a big move-on from the pop-punk that they were toying with in their earliest days. “It all had unnecessarily deep lyrics to begin with,” Milkie laughs, before Sam interjects. “That [first] single hit the things we liked about old music. If you want to say it, actually commit to it. But also, if you just want to have some fun and create a space for others to have fun, then it did that. That was kind of our starting point.”
Leaping off from there, it is their cover of N.E.R.D.’s ‘Lapdance’ that best shows their flexibility and freedom to play with expectations. Initially planned as an exercise in working out how they would juggle vocals and work best together, it eventually arrived on a Soundcloud link. Emboldened by the good reaction, it entered the band’s live sets and has stayed there since. For the only time, and perhaps down to not wanting to be defined by a cover, there’s a slightly defensive air as Sam discusses its impact on the band’s trajectory.
“Sinatra, the fucking old Stones, a load of blues artists and stuff, they all did covers of each other’s songs. And I mean, mate, Liam Gallagher’s selling out Wembley and he didn’t write a single song! He’s comfortable being a performer as opposed to a songwriter. You can still be an artist without creating, so we thought there’s no shame in it. ‘Lapdance’ represents where we are sonically better than anything we’ve written yet because N.E.R.D. had more experience when they were writing!”
“And we can pay homage to the great Pharrell Williams,” finishes Milkie with a laugh.
It is that very fluidity that could come to define Wargasm as something very special. Both ‘Lapdance’ and current single ‘Spit.” showcase a band that aren’t bound by petty rules or the norms of rock writing. For both of them, it is clear that the art is the important thing. Sitting forward, Sam begins. “Sometimes, what we do falls into the alternative rock-slash-emo world. Which is cool, but I don’t find that world as original or inspiring as some others. I’m hoping that, as we progress, and tracks like ‘Spit.’ show, we can be a band more like Slipknot or The Prodigy. These acts kind of cease to exist within their own genre. Slipknot are a metal band, but no metal band has their energy, and you can like them even if you fucking hate metal.”
Warming to his theme, he continues at a rate. “Same with The Prodigy. They fucking started on the South London rave scene, the punks love them, the metalhead love them. And the mums love them too, it becomes its own energy. I like to think as time goes on, we are gonna evolve into this thing that will occupy its own space you know?”
Their other defining feature is not being afraid to ruffle feathers. In fact, they welcome it. “When we were touring with Airways, we were pretty much considerably heavier than them,” smiles Milkie, “I just love seeing people either reacting incredibly strongly or reacting like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this’.”
Grinning, it’s clear that she relishes getting polarised reactions from an audience. Whether you love or hate Wargasm, she sees both as a win. As she finishes with a metaphorical thump, all you can feel is their desire to make people feel something, anything, about not just the band but the world around them. “The whole point of art is to get a reaction,” Sam agrees. “And I think a lot of new artists in this scene have forgotten that. There’s nothing wrong with ‘just’ being a musician or a band member. But if you’re gonna call yourself an artist, you have to think bigger.”
Anyone who has caught one of Wargasm’s lockdown videos knows that they take every tiny aspect of their appearance deadly seriously. Nothing is left to chance, every minuscule detail of performance and presentation worked on and finessed. It’s no accident he says. “You always have to think, ‘what am I saying here? Do I really commit to that, or am I just doing it? Am I doing it because its a good bridge or just to get to the chorus quicker?’”
There are plenty of bands that Sam picks out as artists currently transcending the trends and making music as art. “Well, The Wonder Years are now bigger than all of fucking pop-punk. They do something special. Loathe are doing really interesting things, they’ve got a bit of metal and a bit of nu-metal. They’ve got a Deftones-y sound to them, but they are obviously artists, not just musicians. I think something that would help out rock music as a whole is if people just remembered the word ‘artist’ and what it’s all about. Find your own marimba!” he finishes enigmatically to fits of laughter from Milkie.
For a band that clearly have a fierce sense of what is right and wrong, it’s no surprise that talk eventually turns to plans of returning to London to join the current anti-racism protests. “Bolstering the ranks” as they put it, should people fall ill with our new friend, Covid-19. Talking the day after slave trader Edward Colston’s statue was torn down in Bristol, (“It warms your heart” smiles Milkie), it is high up in their priorities to help where they can. Again, those twin fuels of the band mix and merge into each other, burning visceral anger and hopeful euphoria creating something unbreakable. Something hard enough to withstand anything that life can throw at it. Wargasm couldn’t be more perfectly suited for these times.
Taken from the August issue of Upset, out now.
Featuring Biffy Clyro, Wargasm, Stand Atlantic, Fontaines DC and more.